MARTA’s reduced routes may impact voter turnout

by Ed Williams. Ed.D. Chair
Concerned Citizens for Effective Government

MARTA has disadvantaged the poor and vulnerable in a time of need. It has been a month since MARTA eliminated and reduced transit service throughout the Atlanta Metropolitan area, including Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton and the City of Atlanta. While at the same time MARTA has sought federal funding to supplement the lost revenue because of the coronavirus. The Atlanta area was awarded 371 million for transit relief. MARTA is expected to receive a big chunk of the money approximately 300 million. It does not make sense for MARTA to receive federal dollars and still eliminate the bus services for which it sought funding. MARTA eliminated and reduced bus routes after Governor Kemp
announced the state was re-opening for business.

MARTA in its own press release dated May 12, 2020 stated that their “unanticipated costs for masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, and emergency sick leave totals $1.32 million. Costs that are expected to increase as the economy reopens, shelter-in-place orders are lifted, and more customers return to transit.”

MARTA’s actions that eliminated 70 bus routes may have a negative impact on the June 9th election and early voter turnout. Many citizens depend on MARTA to get around. On April 20, 2020, MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker eliminated 70 routes and reduced services without any public hearing and without the approval of the MARTA board. MARTA cited the coronavirus and public safety reasons for
eliminating the bus routes. The action by MARTA has left thousands of residents without any way to get to a grocery store, hospital, post office, work, or to go to the polls to vote.

MARTA claims to provide reliable transit for more than 500,000 riders. More than 550 buses provide service along 1,439 miles of road on 101 routes. It touts on its website that it supports 24,864 jobs throughout Atlanta and the state of Georgia.

Early voting started on Monday May 18, 2020 and continues through June 5, 2020, and the election for the presidential primary and other state and local offices are scheduled to be held on Tuesday June 9, 2020. Although many citizens are expected to vote with absentee ballots, the ballots will require stamps and the residents who do have cars will have to find a way to the post office unless their postman pickups their ballot with a stamp from their place of residence. The actions of MARTA could have a negative impact in the poor communities where riders do not have a car to go to the post office or make it to the local precinct, or to go and participate in early voting because they do not have
a way to get to the polls. This reduction in service is unprecedented and without comparison since MARTA has existed.

It is ironic that MARTA, an agency whose existence has been because of African Americans and those who do not have cars have now been abandon in a real time of need, and when their voices and vote may be at risk of not being counted and heard. MARTA serves an essential governmental function it is not a private corporate business it is a public entity. MARTA is an instrumentality of the DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton, and City of Atlanta.

The MARTA public notice did not state that the action was temporary or when it would be lifted. The people shall always have the right to know what their government and its agencies and authorities are doing in their name when it is a public authority and utilizes taxpayer money. Marta had 3 meetings between March 12, and April 20, 2020. There was ample time to hold a special called meeting to approve the service and fare changes however, it did not. The failure of the CEO to do his job,
or the board to provide oversight does not constitute an emergency on the public’s behalf and it does not justify an excuse to violate the laws of the state.

The route in DeKalb was cut which normally takes citizens to the DeKalb Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) office at the North Lake Mall location. This is an example of why there should have been some public notice and comment regarding which routes and services that were going to be reduced and eliminated. I have read and heard from many citizens who have raised
questions about the actions of MARTA regarding the disparity and inequities in the services and which routes were eliminated. In order to address these concerns, the MARTA board owes the citizens of
DeKalb, Fulton, and Clayton counties an explanation as to how the routes were selected and why, and a vote by the MARTA board to re-establish those routes that were eliminated. The citizens of the DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton and the City of Atlanta deserves better.

Ed Williams / signed
Ed Williams. Ed.D. Chair
Concerned Citizens For Effective Government

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